County To Consider BUSD Union Contracts By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday June 10, 2005

Tentative Berkeley Unified School District contract settlements have been ratified by three school unions, but the agreements must be cleared by the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) before going to the BUSD Board of Directors for final approval. 

The unions include the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, which represents secretaries, office workers, and elementary school library technicians, and Local 39 of the Stationary Engineers, which represents bus drivers and custodians. 

Pre-clearance of the tentative union agreements is required by the county office because BUSD is presently officially operating under a “qualified” budget status. The district has submitted a “positive” interim budget report to ACOE which would end such restrictions, but that new budget designation has yet to be approved by the county. 

No date has been issued for clearance of the union agreements by ACOE. 

BFT President Barry Fike said that the BFT negotiations team had decided not to release the actual margin of approval of the tentative agreement by district teachers. Fike also declined any other comment on the union’s ratification or the contract itself, saying he would wait until after the contract cleared final approval by the county education office and the BUSD board. 

BCCE President Ann Graybeal said that her organization ratified the tentative agreement by a “majority vote,” and declined to release any more details. 

Representatives of Local 39 were not available for comment. A spokesperson for the district confirmed that the union had also ratified the proposed contracts. 

In a telephone interview with Graybeal held before the union’s ratification vote, she said that unlike the teachers or the bus drivers and custodians, BCCE was not working on a new contract, but has been negotiating what is called a “reopener” of the existing 2004-07 pact. In reopeners, either side of the party is allowed to ask for contract changes in salary, benefits, and two other items of their choice. BCCE submitted their reopener proposal to the BUSD last November. 

“The tentative agreement was reached on the most critical areas of our salary and benefits proposals,” Graybeal said. 

She said the two remaining compensation-related issues yet to be decided in the negotiations “are considered to be minor issues relative to the issues that have been tentatively resolved, not because they are not important issues to the union and to the employees involved, but because they only affect a small number of unit members.” 

Graybeal said that agreement has yet to be reached on the union’s non-compensation proposals.